Richmond was challenged early by an inform Hawthorn team but proved too strong in an impressive performance in the First Qualifying Final at the MCG. After a series of lethargic performances to end the season, Richmond rediscovered their peak form to claim a 31-point victory and a home Preliminary Final.
1. Dusty rises to the occasion
Game 200 was a powerhouse performance from Dustin Martin. After his 2017 finals series, it came as no surprise but it wasn’t any less impressive. Fulfilling Coach Damien Hardwick’s warning that he was ready to take the finals by the scruff of the neck, Martin tormented the Hawks.
Whether it was goals that defied physics, deft handpasses or his regulation powerful work around the stoppage it was a tour de force from the Tiger star. If he can replicate this level of play twice more this year he may well add another Premiership and Norm Smith Medal double to his resume.
2. Alastair Clarkson doesn’t believe everything he reads
“I don’t mean to be too unflattering, but you guys are like a bunch of sheep,” he told reporters. “Someone brings up the fact that Clarkson is going to tactically have an impact on this game haven’t watched the way I have coached for the last 14 years.”
While the four-time premiership coach seemed intent to dispel any talk of his tactical mastery, he would have seen some promising signs in his team’s performance despite the result. In the first half arm-wrestle, a number of key misses including a pair of from usually reliable stars cost them an opportunity to stay with the Tigers but would have given Clarkson some confidence in the structure if the two teams paths cross again in 2018.
3. Tigers pressure too much for Hawks to handle
With Richmond the leading team in the competition for scores from opposition turnovers, Hawthorn would know what they would get on Friday night. Knowing what to expect and being able to cope with it are two different things. Despite all of Hawthorn’s best efforts by half time four of Richmond’s five goals had come as a result of turnovers. While the Hawks were only two goals down at the main break, the dam wall was near breaking point and in the third quarter the unrelenting pressure from the Tigers paid off. In what had been Hawthorn’s best quarter all year, the Tigers kicked away to a 35-point lead to take total control of the contest.
4. Even the best get the yips
If there was a list of AFL players to kick for your life, Shaun Burgoyne and Luke Bruest’s names would near the top. Despite their reputation for reliability built up over the years, they both showed that even the best get the yips with a couple of shots for goal that they would love to have again.
5. Dylan Grimes is elite
Given the cries at his absence from the All-Australian team, this is not news to Richmond fans. Yet for fans of other clubs, the fact the 27-year-old has been happy to go about his business in the shadow of Alex Rance, he has possibly flown under the radar. As he showed again on Friday night, Grimes is seldom beaten, able to play on small or tall and is a reliable user of the ball. One of the most important members of the Richmond machine, his days under the radar are no doubt coming to an end.
FIRST QUALIFYING FINAL
RICHMOND 2.2 5.7 10.13 13.17 (95)
HAWTHORN 2.3 3.5 5.8 9.10 (64)
Richmond: McIntosh 3, Rioli 3, Caddy 2, Martin, Prestia, Higgins, Edwards, Graham
Hawthorn: Roughead 3, Shiels, Nash, Impey, Mitchell, Breust, Smith
Richmond: Martin, Prestia, Cotchin, Rioli, Lambert, Grimes, Grigg
Hawthorn: O’Meara, Mitchell, Shiels, Smith, Henderson, Sicily
Richmond: Rance (left foot)
Hawthorn: Ryan Schoenmakers (Achilles soreness) replaced in selected side by Daniel Howe, Hardwick (hip), Stratton (hamstring)
Umpires: Rosebury, Deboy, Ryan
Official crowd: 91,446 at the MCG